EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was first printed in The Hudson Reporter Newspapers on May 14, 2000, which was Mother's Day. At the time, the column received such a positive response (more than 40 letters and cards), easily the highest response total for any column written here over the last 15 years. It was reprinted in May, 2003 as a tribute to Moms everywhere.
This week, it gets republished as a tribute to Helaine Hague, who died Friday, Sept. 22, 2006.
It's Mother's Day, the first of the new millennium. It's a day to
lavish Mom with gifts of appreciation, flowers, cards, candy, maybe a
trip to her favorite restaurant. It's an occasion for children to truly
remember what Mom really meant to them through the years.
Although it shouldn't take the second Sunday in May to think about Mom,
we are all forced to do so on a day like this. And that's good. We
should all take the time and remember Mom. After all, we wouldn't be
here without her, right?
But it's far more than that. Every
successful person - and for that matter, every successful athlete on any
level, from Little League to the pros - has been inspired and touched
by the dedication and love of his or her mother.
sportswriter, I've witnessed the importance of mothers on their aspiring
athletic children so many times, both behind the scenes and in full
view. There can not be a single athlete alive who said that he or she
wasn't affected by the love and care and concern of their mother.
Some people may have disagreements with their
mothers and may not want to admit it. But here's a little refresher
course, just in case you've forgotten.
Who was the one to wash
the Little League uniform and make sure it was as close to lily white as
possible for the next game? When practices ran late, who was the one
who made sure that there was some semblance of a hot meal on the table?
When you were ravaged by cold and flu, who was the first one to come
with the aspirins and cold compresses? When you had the upset stomach,
who was the first to offer the "old family secret?" When you had the
little cut on the finger, who had the handy Band-Aid already opened?
When you needed a ride from basketball practice to baseball tryouts to
soccer games, who was the one who already had her keys in hand? And when
that soccer game was being played in a steady downpour, who was the one
standing on the sidelines with the bright, broad smile?
who was the one who went to the football games to cheer you on, even
when she had no clue what was going on? Sitting in the stands at those
cold, frosty football games, closing her eyes with every opportunity
that her "little baby" could actually get hurt? How about the endless
baseball games they watched you play in the hot, summer sun, just to see
your last at-bat in a 23-2 loss?
Sure, Dad was there, but no
one loved you more than Mom. Dad might have been the inspiration and the
one you wanted to prove something to, but Mom was there with her
undying devotion and love, from cleaning the uniforms to cleaning the
scrapes and cuts.
Being your mom was a thankless job, but
someone had to do it. You weren't about to wash your own uniform and
make it sparkle in time for game day. And face it, you always got the
sticky end of the Band-Aid mangled and twisted.
I know about Moms, because I had one and still have one, although she's now a mere shell of what she used to be. But Helaine Hague is still my Mom. And today's her day.
Fate wasn't kind to Helaine Hague nearly 30 years ago, when cancer took her husband far too early, before Jack
and Helaine could grow old together. Fate left Helaine Hague with the
task of raising a moody 15-year-old daughter and a demanding 10-year-old
son, without the man she had been totally devoted to for 33 years. She
didn't plan on being both father and mother to two growing children, but
she had no choice.
We all could have totally fallen apart
after the death of my father. I mean, my father was the breadwinner and
the backbone of our family. We all fed off him. His loss could have been
devastating to the point of destruction.
But because of my
mother's strong will and dedication to her children, she did her best to
make sure that my sister and I never wanted for anything. She made sure
that we received the best possible education (my sister's at Holy
Family Academy and Montclair State and mine at St. Peter's Prep and
Marquette). We weren't exactly rich and there were times where we
wondered where the next dollar would come from. But we never wanted or
And that's a credit to my mother, who did it
all on her own. I adore my father and cherish his memory and what he
stood for, but the reason why I have anything today is Helaine Hague.
You read these words today because she was strict and loving and
stubborn and unwavering and belligerent and caring. Although she never
wanted that role, she was father and mother wrapped into one. And she
did a good job.
My mother was a dutiful servant to the Jersey
City Board of Education for 20 years, serving as a teacher's aide at
three schools, the last being Rafael Cordero School (P.S. 37) in
downtown Jersey City. She looked forward to getting up every day and
spending the day with the youngsters who made her feel young.
As a woman, she was one of the most active people I knew, volunteering
her time for several organizations, like the Cub Scouts, Catholic
Daughters, St. Paul's Rosary Society, St. Paul's Senior Citizens, the
All Sorrows soup kitchen, the Columbianettes, et al. I mean, she was
constantly on the go, going from one meeting to another. I marveled at
As a mother, she was always there for me, in
everything I did. After my father's death, it had to be emotionally hard
to return to the Little League fields where my father and I spent every
Saturday, but she was there to watch her little boy. She remained that
chubby kid's biggest fan throughout Babe Ruth and high school, always
asking me to "make her a home run." There were some Babe Ruth games
where she was the only parent attending the game - and she had no idea
what she was watching.
She never wanted to watch football games
or wrestling matches, for fear I would get hurt. More than often, that
indeed happened. But she was there, probably closing her eyes and
clutching the rosaries.
When I went off to college, she wrote
me a letter every single day and sealed the letter with a dollar bill
inside. Every single day. You have no idea how far those dollars went
and how far the love traveled from Jersey City to Milwaukee. With every
note of news from home, I felt like I was there with her.
came home after college, I had a job delivering meats for a meat
purveyor, and received a good salary. After four months of the madness,
my mother had enough.
One morning, she stood over my bed as I woke, and asked me one question.
"James, what you do every day, does that have anything to do with
journalism? I mean, the bloody coats and stink, is that journalism?"
I answered with a stupid laugh, "Of course not, Mom. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I suggest you do something with your life in journalism," and
she walked away. I got the hint. I quit the meat delivery job that week
and started a new job writing obituaries for $100 a week, $600 a week
less than what I had getting delivering meat.
That was 17 years ago. I've been involved in a life of journalism ever since.
For years, my friends have always given me abuse, saying that I was a
"Mama's boy," because I lived with my mother for 34 years, until she was
moved to a nursing home, when her battle with Paget's disease became
You know what? They were right. I was a Mama's boy - my Mama's boy.
She's getting up in years now, spending her days in a nursing home 90
miles away. She's wheelchair-bound and can't hear much at all. Her
eyesight, previously ravaged by cataracts, is poor. So is her memory on
selected days. Helaine Hague deserved to live her golden years in better
fashion. In that respect, fate has never been particularly kind to her.
Cancer took her husband, and old age took her grace and dignity.
But she's still here and still my mommy. I miss the feisty,
pain-in-the-rear Polack who drove me crazy and battled with me for most
of my life. I have that as a memory.
I still have my mother,
the one who made me what I am today, who gave me every opportunity to be
able to express my opinion in words. I don't know what I would have
done without her. I owe everything I have today to my mother.
Today will be her day, in whatever fashion that may be. I know I'm not
going to have many more. It could very well be the last one. We never
To all those who have mothers and have the ability to enjoy the day, please do so. While you can.
And to all those mothers who have toiled behind the scenes, happy
Mother's Day. You're appreciated in these parts. I know what you all do.
And you do it well.
EPITAPH: Helaine Hague went to her
final rest last week. Her pain and suffering is finally over and she has
finally been reunited with the man she adored after such a long time.
From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate the cards, letters, e-mails
and calls I've received since Mom passed. She would have been happy to
know that her picture finally graces the sports pages. - Jim Hague